Klaus Kroell gave Austria its first World Cup downhill victory of the season Friday in Chamonix, France, edging American Bode Miller by 0.01 seconds in a race so tight the top five skiers were separated by only 0.08 seconds.

Miller was faster than Kroell at every split but lost time on the bottom section and finished an eye blink behind Kroell, who won in two minutes 4.22 seconds.

After Miller crossed the line, he spun quickly to check the big screen to see how he did. He held his head in his hands in disbelief and stood still for a few seconds.

"It's tough. … There's so many places where a hundredth can come or go," Miller said. "I didn't really have a great reach for the finish line, which I always try to do well.

"That's the worst place to lose it, right out of the start or right at the finish line, and today I kind of left a little bit out there."

Erik Guay of Mont-Tremblant, Que., finished tied for fourth with Austrian Romed Baumann with a time of 2:04.30. Calgary's Jan Hudec was sixth in 2:04.39.

"Things are progressing nicely," said Guay, who is now ranked sixth in the World Cup downhill standings. "I’m getting consistency from training through to race day. I think I just need to find that extra gear."

Kroell earned his fourth World Cup victory but first since winning the downhill at Wengen, Switzerland, in January last year.

"Having waited so long it's a great joy, and a great relief. A great weight has been lifted from me," Kroell said. "It was a very difficult race for me because I made a mistake right at the start, and then on a turn. So it was a bad start."

Under overcast skies and with light snow falling on the La Verte des Houches course, 37-year-old Didier Cuche of Switzerland finished third in his bid for a third straight downhill victory. He was 0.03 seconds behind Miller in 2:04.26.

"Because everyone's so close together with the ability, and the courses seem to be easier — they're slower — there's less things that separate the field," Miller said. "A lot of these races are unbelievable close.

"That's a challenge in itself to really make sure that you stay focused and pay attention to the things that matter."

Miller almost captured his second downhill win of the season after his aggressive run down the Birds of Prey course at Beaver Creek, Colo., two months ago when he finished ahead of Beat Feuz and Kroell.

"It didn't really feel exactly like my skis were running that well," Miller said. "I knew I got away with a lot of stuff at the top so I knew I'd be fast up there, but once I was on that bottom flat I kind of felt like I was losing."

"It was really wet, kind of weird snow. And when you hit that stuff … they [the skis] go all over the place. It's kind of hard to tell what they're doing."

Hannes Reichelt had the previous best downhill performance by an Austrian this season — second on the Lauberhorn course in Wengen last month. Kroell, meanwhile, has had three third-place finishes.

Cuche, who is set to retire this year, won in Chamonix last year and was very close to adding another win to his glittering collection in his final season. He won downhills in Kitzbuehel, Austria, and Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, last month.

The race was rescheduled from Val Gardena, Italy, the first classic downhill of the season. It had been called off in December because of strong wind.

Chamonix hosts its regular downhill Saturday (Bold, CBCSports.ca, 6 a.m. ET), followed by a super combined Sunday.

With files from CBCSports.ca